Dr. Brendan Nelson, President of Boeing International (BI), stressed that the American company was keen to support Saudi Arabia in developing its plans for space exploration.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Nelson said he was pleased to see two Saudi citizens visit the International Space Station (ISS), including the first Arab female astronaut, noting that Boeing has been part of every major American space endeavor and was keen to support the Kingdom in this field.
The head of BI, which manages the company’s international strategy and operations outside the United States, and oversees 18 regional offices in major global markets, stressed that Saudi Arabia was witnessing a very exciting stage in the aviation and space sector, pointing to the Kingdom’s strategy to develop aviation and tourism as enablers of broad economic growth.
Asked about his recent visit to Riyadh, Nelson said that he met with officials in key government bodies, such as the General Authority of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Investment.
“I would like to reaffirm our commitment to developing the aviation system in Saudi Arabia in support of the goals of Vision 2030,” he said, adding: “We have a long-term relationship with the Kingdom and we look forward to continuing to drive innovation and sustainable growth in the Saudi aviation sector.”
Commenting on the recent order by Saudi airlines, Nelson said his company was honored that Saudia and Riyadh Airlines have finally committed to purchasing up to 121 new 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
“These important deals will play a major role in developing Saudi Arabia’s air transport network, and support the Kingdom’s broader strategic plan to transform the country into a global aviation hub. It also represents a significant investment by the Kingdom in supporting its broader vision to serve 330 million passengers and attract 100 million visitors annually by 2030,” Nelson told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The president of BI stressed that Boeing was already a major contributor to the Saudi aviation industry through its joint venture with Saudi Military Industries, SAMI, which supports military helicopters.
“We are also exploring opportunities to expand our global supplier base so that we can develop and increase talents and expertise all over the world, and this extends to the Saudi aviation system,” he stated.
According to Nelson, one of the greatest challenges of the era was addressing the global issue of climate change, emphasizing commitment to decarbonize the aviation industry and eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.
The president of Boeing International pointed to many factors that stimulate growth in the aerospace and defense sector in the Middle East. He explained that in commercial aviation, the region has emerged as a popular connection point for international travelers, and continues to grow as a destination for tourism and leisure.
“We expect passenger traffic in the Middle East to increase by 6 percent annually over the next two decades. To support this growth, companies operating in the Middle East are expected to receive orders for more than 3,000 new commercial aircraft, which will help the region’s fleet grow almost two and a half times by 2042,” Nelson remarked.
He continued: “Saudi Arabia will play an important role in this growth as part of its Vision 2030.”
On the development of electric aircraft, Nelson said that the company’s work in the field of electric aviation included forming partnerships to develop, test and certify all electric vehicles and safely deploy them.
“Through our wholly-owned subsidiary (Wisk Aero), we have flown more than 1,600 test flights of the battery-powered electric taxi,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Regarding China’s influence in the aviation industry and Boeing’s share in the global market, he said: “We have been a strong partner with the commercial aviation sector in China for more than 50 years. They remain friends, customers and competitors, and we look forward to continuing the challenge for decades to come.”